Published: August 11, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. — A William Fitz tall case clock, circa 1795, stood head and shoulders above several notable lots from the New Hampshire collection of Lawrence and Dorothy Perkins, a featured section of Eldred’s summer sale, July 30-31, at the firm’s headquarters on Cape Cod. It sold for $68,750. Heading into New Hampshire Antiques Week, an August staple — albeit mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions — Eldred’s similarly online sale featured several Granite State gems.
The Perkinses, residents of New Hampshire, carefully and thoughtfully acquired their collection over 20 years from New England’s leading antiques dealers and auction houses. Like the tall case clock by William Fitz, there were many pieces from Portsmouth, N.H., makers, including a Judkins and Senter sideboard and four pieces by cabinetmaker Joseph Clark.
“The Perkinses shared with me how they started to collect,” said Bill Bourne, vice president of Eldred’s and head of its Americana department. “They took courses at the MFA on American antiques and then proceeded to connect with some of the top dealers in their area. Obviously, between their eye and the dealers,’ they chose wisely and formed a very select group of New England and Portsmouth-focused quality pieces”
With a magnificently constructed case in mahogany and mahogany veneer with eastern white pine secondary woods, the William Fitz clock features an arched bonnet with three brass ball and spire finials on plinths joined by pierced and relief-carved fretwork in a foliate design. There’s a conforming arched frieze above dial door with bone inlay in a design that mirrors the fretwork. An arched glazed dial door is flanked by brass-capped fluted full columns with partial brass stop-fluting. There are additional brass-capped quarter columns at rear of bonnet. The arched shape of the dial door is echoed in glazed openings at both sides of the bonnet and on the pendulum door. The trunk has brass-capped fluted full columns with partial brass stop-fluting. The maker applied molding along perimeter of pendulum door and on base panel, bracket base with scalloped skirt. Movement is brass eight-day weight-driven with anchor recoil escapement and rack-and-snail striking mechanism.
The clock’s painted enamel dial features foliate designs at corners, a Roman numeral hour ring, an ordinal minutes ring, subsidiary seconds and calendar dials, and a moon phase dial in the lunette framed with terrestrial hemisphere maps. The piece is signed on dial “W. Fitz Portsmouth,” branded “S. HAM” on interior of the backboard, possibly indicating the clock was owned by merchant Samuel Ham (1770-1813) or clockmaker Supply Ham (1788-1862), both of Portsmouth. It is also inscribed “RS” in chalk on the backboard and marked “Osborne Birmingham” on the false plate of the dial.
Accompanying the lot was Portsmouth Furniture Masterworks from the New Hampshire Seacoast edited by Brock Jobe (Hanover, N.H.: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities/University Press of New England, 1993), in which the clock was illustrated on pages 201-203. According to the book, William Fitz opened his clockmaking shop in 1791, at age 21. Fitz was born in Newburyport, Mass., and it’s believed he trained there, as it was a clockmaking center at the time. Fitz lived in Portsmouth from only 1791 to 1798, then returned to Newburyport. He also lived in Portland, Maine, and Boston before dying in New Orleans in 1827.
The auction had limited floor bidding, with phone and absentee bidding available with preregistration, as well as online bidding available through the firm’s website and Invaluable.com. With Massachusetts advisories pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 impacting bidding options and exhibition schedules, prospective bidders were encouraged to make private preview appointments. “I was very pleased with the sale,” Josh Eldred, president of Eldred’s told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “We had a live RSVP audience of about 30-40 people socially distanced, although it was predominantly online and phone bidding taking place.”
Fetching $31,250 and from the Perkins collection was the Rogers family William and Mary highboy in maple, with poplar and chestnut secondary woods. The case piece had descended through a half dozen generations of the William Rogers (1709-1772) family of Newport, R.I., and had debuted publicly in 2010 by Peter H. Eaton Antiques, Newbury, Mass. It featured an upper case with molded cornice and two half drawers over three graduated full-width drawers, lower case with three varied side-by-side drawers, a triple-arcade skirt and tulip legs joined by a shaped stretcher and ending in turnip feet with flared lower pads. It retained its original etched brass hardware and stood 65¾ inches high. Another furniture highlight was a rare Queen Anne tea table, circa 1760, in mahogany featuring a molded-edge tray top and delicately shaped skirt. On cabriole legs ending in pad feet, the table went out at $11,875.
Two other prominently featured pieces from the Perkins collection were a William and Mary gateleg table ($35/50,000) and a rare diminutive Federal server attributed to Judkins and Senter, Portsmouth, N.H., circa 1810 ($35/50,000). Both were passed in the sale, but the gateleg table was an after-auction purchase, and Josh Eldred said he was hopeful that the server, too, would find a post-sale buyer.
The sale included nearly 200 paintings in total, with other significant examples, including a “View of Provincetown, Mass.,” a rare scene of the famed Cape Cod resort town by Ralph Eugene Cahoon Jr (1910-1982), which was the second highest priced lot, finishing at $50,000. A wonderful and rare view of Provincetown with boats named Martha, Rose, Ann and Sally, the oil on Masonite painting was signed lower right “R. Cahoon” and measured 24 by 30 inches. “Weighing In,” another Cahoon oil on Masonite, 18½ by 26 inches, featuring a mermaid jockey came out of a private Massachusetts collection and weighed in pricewise at $15,000.
Surprisingly, a Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) painting titled “Evening, Cornish, N.H.,” that was estimated $80/120,000, also was passed. It had been illustrated in the May 1930 issue of American Magazine in an article about Parrish and described as “Parrish at his best.”
In addition to the Perkins collection, the sale offered the Mr and Mrs Kenneth DeLong collection of bird carvings, mostly comprising an assortment of miniature and decorative carvings by A. Elmer Crowell. The DeLongs, of Cape Cod, acquired their collection over 50 years, according to Bill Bourne, who has known the couple since his childhood. A rare pair of A. Elmer Crowell decorative life-size bobwhite quail, circa 1938, went out at $25,000. With glass eyes and carved tail feathers, the birds were mounted together on stepped oval base, with one quail looking at a carved fly on the base. Also by Crowell was a rare golden plover decoy in eclipse plumage in feeding position, which although its original bill had a hairline crack managed to rise to $12,500. “We sold almost all of the DeLong collection,” said Eldred.
A charming oil on canvas painting of two shoeshine boys with a dog by John George Brown (1831-1913) was bid to $25,000. Signed and dated upper right “J.G. Brown 1897,” unframed, the 14-by-18½-inch painting had been in several private collections on the West Coast before coming to auction.
Other sporting art pieces in the sale included a red-breasted merganser in flight mounted on a seascape-painted plaque by Nantucket carver/artist James Walter Folger (1851-1918), which made $18,750.
Midcentury Modern performed well, according to Eldred. There were a couple of abstract impressionist works by Charles Green Shaw (1892-1974) that were notable in the sale. His “Out of Chaos,” 1959, oil on canvas, 30 by 40 inches, commanded $15,000. “Yellow Afternoon,” 1959, oil on canvas, 30 by 40 inches, earned an above-high estimate $13,750. Both had been descended from the estate of the artist to Charles H. Carpenter Jr, author of the Decorative Arts and Crafts of Nantucket and by descent in the Carpenter family. There were also a couple of the whimsical circa 1970s Pedro Friedeberg (b 1936) hand chairs, most notably a silvered wood example that earned $11,875.
Tranquility was the mood of a Robert W. Stark Jr (1933-2014) oil on canvas, “Sailing on calm waters,” a bright red sail against powder blue water that earned $11,875.
Most of the notable prices were attained on day one, but there were some robust results on day two as well, including a couple of paintings such as “October in the Highland” by Alfred de Breanski Sr (English-Scottish, 1852-1928) that found a buyer at $11,250 and Hunt Slonem’s (b 1951) “Ascention in Blue” that took $6,875.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Eldred’s next sale is its maritime auction on August 13. For information, 508-385-3116 or www.eldreds.com.
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